The Optics of These Eyes Behold Felicity
Damen knew he was loved by his people, both for his fall from princehood to slavery and for his triumphant return as the rightful king, but no general sentiment, however positive, was enough to dry up the current of palace gossip. The number of missives he received from Laurent, the King of Vere, was steadily dwindling, and he could not be the only one to have noticed.
Laurent had written delightful letters before, sweetly yearning and wickedly knowing by turns, and Damen had not let shame keep him from reading them to tatters. If he could have kept them next to his skin, he would have, but a box of Veretian design with a Veretian locking mechanism that no Akielon would figure out in less than an hour was what he had to content himself with. Aware that he should be sleeping, Damen strode across his chamber and unlocked the box to peruse them again.
Every page looked, at first glance, like Veretian lace, the fine and formal swoops of Laurent's penmanship making striking blue patterns against the creamy vitulinum. Closer to the candlelight, Damen saw the pretty forms resolve themselves into words that he had learned by heart. The most recent ones were as worthy of remembrance as the first had been, and he could detect no diminution of feeling. What was keeping Laurent from writing?
His heart sped up. He had not framed the question in quite that way before – he had scolded himself for presuming to take up so much of the other king's time, he had questioned whether Laurent was simply tired of producing these masterpieces in response to his own heartfelt but clumsy letters – and suddenly he wondered if the stoppage of the letters was itself the message he was supposed to receive. Laurent's poisonous uncle and his venal counselors were at last gone, but perhaps a new threat had sprung up to take their place.
He needed to get to Laurent. He strode urgently from his chamber, barking orders and rousing his closest cohort. Nikandros was the only one to smile, but Damen thought he could sense some excitement from them at the prospect of a voyage and perhaps a battle as bloody as they liked it.
He was unassailable. He was Damianos of Akielos, going to join his love, and he would not be denied.
Fresh from the baths and installed in the most opulent of the palace's guest chambers, Damen could not keep from laughing; much as he loved Laurent, it had been immensely satisfying to see utter surprise on that beautiful face, reducing it to wide eyes, a gaping mouth, and . . . optics. Optics that Laurent, blushing furiously, had snatched off. Damen resolved to think of some suitable way to reward Jord, who had recognized the first wary scout Damen had dispatched, and brought Damen, without ceremony or warning, to Laurent's private quarters, smiling all the while. Damen had not even bothered to ask if there were any threats to Laurent's reign; Jord would never have been so relaxed if anything were troubling his king.
The bed in this guest chamber was too soft and giving to suit his taste or Laurent's, which made him wonder if his placement there was meant to be a sort of punishment. Just to be contrary, he relaxed fully into its puffy embrace and let the embroidered bedclothes twine pleasantly around him.
"The King of Akelios rolls around on his bed like a giggling child." The tone was sharp, to match the words. Damen, having been flayed on the orders of the owner of that voice, refused to be cowed by words meant to do the same. He rolled happily off the bed to face Laurent, whose face was bare of ornamentation or optics.
"Greetings, my lord king," he said pleasantly. "The very sight of you is a blessing." He tried to emphasize, ever so slightly, the word sight; judging from the tightening of Laurent's jaw, he had gone over the line he'd meant to toe.
"Put your hair in order, and you might just pass for respectable," was Laurent's acid reply. Damen shrugged amiably and raked his fingers through his hair. It didn't work, but the longer he went, smiling all the while, the more the corner of Laurent's mouth curled up.
"Enough!" Laurent cried finally, when they had smiled at each other - one happily and one unwillingly - and Damen didn't bother to protest that he hadn't done anything but salute a fellow monarch and try to please him. "I didn't want you to see me with those wretched things."
"I'll be very glad for the optics if they allow you sight enough to begin writing to me again," Damen said without pretense, and Laurent unbent enough to come within a sword's length of him.
"I had headaches every time I read a book or sat down with vellum in front of me to write to you. Paschal insisted on having lenses ground for me to read and write without pain. They were only made ready yesterday." Laurent's tone was crisp but having him so close was making Damen reckless.
"They suit you," he said, seeing surprise flash on Laurent's face even as he took one long step forward to snatch Laurent in his arms. "Did you not realize?" Damen shook his head before Laurent could, marveling at the shy delight on those sharply beautiful features.
He bent his head and kissed his lover, feeling Laurent's lips part beneath his. He did not need letters if he could have this, Laurent warm and responsive in his arms, making him feel mighty.
Too soon, Laurent pulled free, a calculating expression on his face as he brandished the optics; Damen, still happily reeling from the kiss, could not have said where upon his person Laurent could possibly have hidden that delicate mechanism. "Let me see you in finer detail, so close up." Laurent made a show of peering through the optics like he was assessing a potential pet, fussing with their placement on the bridge of his nose.
The silver that joined the two glass rounds was exquisitely simple, not an adornment so much as the proper setting for the beauty of Laurent's face, and completely in keeping with Laurent's own preference for clean, unfussy lines. Damen, lost in looking at his lover, forgot that Laurent was seeing him too.
"I have seen nothing to match you," Laurent said at long last, letting the words linger. "But there is one thing I should like to see even more."
"Name it," Damen, warm from those words, promised recklessly, "and I'll give it to you."
"Your face, at the moment of surrender," Laurent breathed against his ear, then pushed him back on the bed.
"I take it this diplomatic mission was a success," Nikandros said, his tone resolutely suggesting nothing.
"I would call it so," Damen agreed, glad his friend was not as tense as he had been – as they both had been – on the outward journey.
"And what would His Majesty say?" Nik asked, sounding honestly curious.
Damen smiled to remember Laurent on top of him, optics shining in front of his avid eyes, relentlessly dragging Damen toward his pleasure. Sunlight had glittered on his skin and moonlight had made him look like a rare Eastern pearl, and Damen had let words of love spill from his mouth without stinting for all those uncounted hours. "Laurent sees things more clearly now, and would not hesitate to call our journey time and effort well spent."
"That is good to hear, Exalted."
Damen grinned. "It is good to speak such a truth, my friend."
As always, I'd love to hear what you think.
This same entry also appears on Dreamwidth, at http://innie-darling.dreamwidth.org/460563.html.